September 2, 2014 2:13 PM EDT

At the University of Illinois at Chicago, researchers are tripping senior citizens on purpose. But it isn’t a horrible prank.

The elderly people are part of a new study, strapped into safety gear and motion sensors while walking on a treadmill that occasionally skips, training them to avoid falling, the Associated Press reports.

While conventional fall prevention methods include improving muscle strength, balance and flexibility, the new study focuses on building subconscious learning, Clive Pai, a physical therapy professor who is leading the research, told the AP. Pai’s method has been shown to reduce the chance of falling by 50% up to a year later.

Each year, treating falls in the elderly can cost up to $30 billion to treat, according to the CDC.

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